September is designated as Suicide Prevention Month. I think all of us can agree that one suicide is one too many. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) in adolescents and young adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, and suicide deaths have been rising for nearly two decades.

Since 2010, there has been a significant increase in the number of young people who have died by suicide. Any time someone decides to take their own life it is a tragic circumstance, but it is even more tragic when it’s a young child in the prime of their life.

In a recent study, published in the journal Hospital Pediatrics, researchers cited complex triggers for a young person’s suicidal crises. Many times, crises will arise from complicated circumstances, and no one event is ever the sole cause. Rather, the teenagers in this study talked about several common themes, which are known to put individuals at risk of suicidal thoughts.

Many students who have suicidal ideation experience mental health conditions that are treatable with
medication and therapy. Teens described how, when their condition wasn’t fully treated, they had
intrusive, depressed, or racing thoughts. Many said they had suicidal thoughts related to the difficulty of
coping with social pressures, whether from peers, teachers, or other people in their lives. Other teens
reported issues such as going through a breakup, experiencing bullying, or having a fight with a family member. For others, the triggers were the illness or loss of a loved one, or far worse, an event in which they were the victim of or a witness to violence.

Kelly Marcy, executive director of Student Support Services for Iredell-Statesville Schools, has been a student advocate her entire career. She explained, “We are keenly aware in the uptick in depression in adolescents and the completion of suicide in our country and in Iredell County. We are very concerned and continue to take proactive steps to prevent depression and anxiety in our students and create avenues to address these issues.”

The district continues to keep the mental health of our students in our focus. Empowering our students
with a tool to report is one way we are trying to offer support where it is needed.

“We have a reporting app that allows a student to report their concerns for one of their peers who may
have verbalized strong feelings of hopelessness or a desire to end their own life. Through the Say
Something app, which was developed through the Sandy Hook Promise, the district provides immediate help to the student. We also train all of our adults on signs and symptoms of suicidal behavior and depression and what to do when they observe these. We have Student Assistant Program Coordinators (SAPs) and Counselors in all of our schools who have been trained to provide intervention to our students. It is strong partnerships, like the one we have with Children’s Hope Alliance, that allows us to provide school-based therapy to students and also crisis assessment for students who need that,” Marcy added.

It does take a village to raise a child. Our students are struggling with the many pressures of becoming young adults, and they are being exposed to many things in the media and society as a whole. This is
where we need everyone at the table, learning together the signs to look for, mentoring our kids,
providing emotional support and helping navigate the many obstacles in their young lives. Together, we
can encourage young people to talk about depression, anxiety, and overall mental health.

A single life lost is one to many. Together, we can help stop this plague in our community. This is where your tax dollars make a difference, along with your benevolence to organizations like the United Way, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Your support will help stamp out suicide in our county.

Dr. Jeff James is superintendent of Iredell-Statesville Schools.

EDITOR’S NOTE: September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members are united to promote suicide prevention awareness. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is hosting the third annual Out of the Darkness Central Piedmont virtual walk on November 7, 2020. Click HERE to register for the walk.

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